Summary: We want to make an impact on our community and on our world. But so many times the church has failed to really do something for God. Why is that?
A man had been commissioned by the king of Denmark to lead a band of soldiers against the pirates who were wreaking havoc upon ships along a certain coastal area. So he set up his headquarters on a lonely, rocky, desolate island just off the coast, and after a few years was able to clear the pirates out of the area.
Upon returning to the mainland he reported to the king. The king was so pleased that he offered him anything he wanted. All he wanted, he told the king, was a plot of land on the island where he had just lived and fought for so many months. They told him the island was barren. Why would he want to live there? "I want to plant trees," was his reply. "I want to make the island beautiful." The king’s aides thought he was crazy. The island was constantly swept by storms and high winds. He would never be able to get a tree to grow there. But the man, however, insisted, and the king granted him his wish. He went to live on the island, built a home, and finally was able to bring his wife to it.
For years, they worked industriously, persistently, planting trees, shrubs, grass. Gradually the vegetation took hold, the island began to flourish. Eventually the island became a showplace and is now visited by thousands of tourists each year. When he died these words were inscribed on the man’s tombstone: "Make the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been on it."
All of us, I think, have a desire to make a difference in our world, don’t we? We want to make it a better place to live. When we die, we would like to think that we left the earth a little better than we found it. We want to make a difference. But more than making the world a more beautiful place to live, I think you and I really want to make a difference for God, don’t we? We want to see people saved. We want to see new people added to our church family. We want to make an impact on our community and on our world. But so many times the church has failed to really do something for God. Why is that? If in our hearts, we really do have a desire to make a difference, why do we fail to do so?
Well, I believe there are at least three reasons for this lack of success. And if I could, for a little while tonight I just want to share them with you, and perhaps I can challenge us to be able to succeed in making a difference for Jesus.
I. Form But No Content (Matt. 23:23-28)
The first reason I think in many cases the church has failed to make a difference is because often times there is form, but no content. A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, "Maybe it’s because they don’t know you."
In Matt. 23 we find one of the harshest criticisms that the Lord ever gave during His time on earth. And wouldn’t you know it? He was talking to the church. He was talking to the religious leaders. Let me read a few verses from out of that chapter. Vs. 23-28… Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
As we all know, the Pharisees were very good at making themselves look good. They loved to make sure that people knew they fasted and tithed. They made sure that they were keeping all the traditions and the laws of the elders of Israel. They were always at church. They prayed on the street corners. In short, they had the form of godly men. They made sure that on the outside they looked righteous. But they were hypocrites. The outside was clean and beautiful, but the inside was full of iniquity and uncleanness. They had the form, but they had no content.